Special needs kids get PUSH to finish
The words "avid" or even "passionate" are often used to describe people who take part in runs like the Spirit of Survival coming up Sunday in Lawton.
They certainly describe Melissa Ray, a longtime runner from Duncan who is well-familiar with the feelings of anticipation and excitement at the start of a big run, with the adrenaline rush that comes from catching or even pulling away from a pack of fellow runners, and with the great sense of accomplishment felt at the finish line.
They most certainly describe Emma Harper, too. She may actually be more excited about participating in the SoS than most.
The thing is, Harper, who is 10 and a fourth-grader at Horace Mann Elementary in Duncan, has cerebral palsy and other special needs that would make it impossible for her to cover the distance of a 5K, 10K or half-marathon on her own. Still, she has experienced those soaring emotions of joining in and finishing a run thanks to a program called PUSH initiated locally by Ray a couple of years ago. Special needs kids, or even adults, can cover all or part of a course in specially designed jogging strollers pushed by others.
Harper said she thinks of herself or some other runner pushing a stroller as the "feet" of a team and of Emma or some other special needs participant as the team's "heart."
If Emma Harper is a big fan of PUSH, so is her dad, Micah, and her mom, Tara. They only had to see the huge smile on Emma's face when she crossed her first finish line to know that they had an avid even a passionate run participant on their hands. Since that first run, Emma has taken part in 10 more.